Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted a series of inaccurate murder statistics from the “Crime Statistics Bureau — San Francisco.” The bureau doesn’t exist and the statistics were fabricated. It appears the numbers were manipulated to perpetuate racism against African Americans. For example, the graphic claims that 81% of whites are killed by blacks. The actual percentage, based on the latest data from the FBI, is 14 percent.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2015
The image began spreading on Twitter when it was posted by a neo-Nazi who uses a swastika as his avatar. The account almost exclusively tweets racist memes.
Some media outlets, however, took a very charitable approach to covering Trump’s tweet. The Hill, for example, wrote that Trump took “heat for a controversial tweet about black murder rates.”
— The Hill (@thehill) November 23, 2015
That is not actually true. There is no controversy about Trump’s tweet. It is false and bigoted.
The Hill’s article is actually worse. Reporter Cory Bennet writes that “the percentages do, in some ways, align with Department of Justice (DOJ) findings from several years ago.” This is also not true. The percentages do not reflect the DOJ’s findings in a meaningful way and have been almost certainly purposely manipulated to perpetuate racist stereotypes.
BuzzFeed initially took a similar approach, calling Trump’s tweet “questionable.”
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 22, 2015
To its credit, BuzzFeed later changed its headline, describing the statistics as “made-up.” The tweet, however, remains unchanged.
CNN reported that Trump tweeted “racially charged crime data.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 23, 2015
What he tweeted was not data. It was a racist meme.
Other outlets, however, were more direct. The Washington Post described Trump’s tweet as “very wrong.” The Daily Beast said that Trump used “false statistics to make a racist point.” And New York Magazine noted that Trump made a “racist point with [a] wildly incorrect tweet.”
Still Trump seems to be benefiting from coverage of his antics as “controversial,” rather than false. In a recent poll of Iowa voters by CBS News, Trump supporters said their favorite quality about his was that he “says things others are afraid to say.”
The poll found Trump leading the field by nine points.